Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry: Drugs, Electroshock, and the Psychopharmaceutical Complex, Second Edition / Edition 2

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When the first edition of this book exploded upon the scene in 1997, it created a storm of controversy and protest that continues to this day. The author and publisher received threats and Breggin's then controversial stand was excoriated in the psychiatric literature as heretical and dangerous. In that first edition, he presented his more complete documentation to date of how psychiatric drugs and electroshock disable the brain. He presented the latest scientific information on potential brain dysfunction and dangerous behavioral abnormalities produced by the most widely used drugs, including Prozac, Xanax, Halcion, Ritalin, and lithium. Psychiatry hasn't been the same since. Ten years later, Springer Publishing is again proud to publish the second edition of this epochal book. This edition, twice the size of its predecessor, has been drastically updated and expanded and Breggin has elaborated his concept of medication spellbinding (intoxication anosognosia). The neuroleptic chapters have been updated to include much more material on the newer, atypical drugs, as well as new information on the neurotoxicity and cytotoxicity of all antipsychotic drugs. A massive amount of new information about antidepressant drugs and the stimulant drugs has resulted in a additional chapter on each drug. This new edition concludes with two new chapters on treatment—one on how to safely withdraw from psychiatric drugs and the other about psychosocial and educational approaches to very disturbed people, including 20 guidelines for therapy. He also, for the first time, includes a wealth of "how-to" treatment information. Many of Breggin's findings and theories are finding there way into clinical practice and FDA-mandated changes in antidepressant labels. At the same time, he acknowledges that the increasing power of drug companies to influence psychiatric treatment has only grown and adds new information debunking the "medical model" of mental illness

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Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Michael Joel Schrift, DO, MA (University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine)
Description: This is the second edition of this contentious book written by the controversial anti-psychiatry psychiatrist Peter Breggin, who throughout his career has been a critic of biological psychiatry, psychopharmacology, and electroconvulsive therapy. His main thesis, in this edition and in his previous books, is that there is no biological basis of mental illness and that biological treatments such as antidepressants, neuroleptics, lithium, and ECT exert their therapeutic action by inducing brain damage/dysfunction in patients. In addition, he asserts that when and if patients do have an apparent effect, it is not truly an improvement but "iatrogenic helplessness and denial and, more specifically, intoxication anosognosia (medication spellbinding)." The author does make some valid points regarding problems in psychiatry and medicine in general: the validity problems with the DSM, the influence of the drug companies on physicians, the reflexive prescribing of drugs by doctors, the biases of clinical trials sponsored by drug companies, the hiding of pertinent data by drug makers, among others. The major flaw in his arguments is his apparent categorical thinking. The so-called facts that he lists in his book contain no shades of gray. His categorical thinking is of the Cartesian dualism variety with such statements as on page 19: "I believe that the concepts of mental illness and mental disorder are misleading and that none of the problems commonly treated by psychiatrists are genetic, or biological in origin." His categorical thinking invades such concepts as disease, disorder, authenticity, treatment effects, illness effects, informed consent, brain damage, and addiction.
Purpose: The purpose is to convey the author's contention that "(A)ll of the currently available biopsychiatric treatments - drugs, electroshock, and psychosurgery - have their primary or 'therapeutic' effect by impairing or disabling normal brain function, causing iatrogenic helplessness and denial and, more specifically, intoxication anosognosia (medication spellbinding)."
Audience: The intended audience is patients whose serious psychiatric problems the author treats with understanding "the life story of each individual - his or her personal biography - in all its subtle complexity. Often, I involve loved ones and family to help them understand each other. On this basis of genuine understanding, instead of cookie-cutter diagnoses, I am far more able to help individuals lead more satisfying, successful lives." Unfortunately, this treatment recommendation gives false hope to patients and their families that "genuine understanding" is sufficient in itself to treat serious mental illness. The author's apparent dualism blinds him to the notion that if indeed "genuine understanding" was in some way therapeutic, he has changed that individual's brain structure and brain function and his brain manipulation has no more intrinsic moral worth than any other treatment, be it mental or physical. His treatment paradigm is also subject to the same criticism that he applies to drugs and ECT. For, if a patient's outcome is dependent upon the author's "genuine understanding" technique, doesn't that suggest to patients that they are helpless, dependent and will become addicted to his (Dr. Breggin's) expertise in eliciting this "genuine understanding?"
Features: The 16 chapters cover the so-called "brain-disabling" effects of psychiatric drugs such as neuroleptics, antidepressants, lithium, stimulants, anti-anxiety agents. The chapter covering ECT deserves special mention since it highlights the Sackeim et al. study (Neuropsychopharmacology. 2007 Jan;32(1):244-54) of the cognitive effects of electroconvulsive therapy in community settings and states that the study "provides proof that ECT causes brain damage." First, the study is on cognitive outcome, not a pathological study of the participants' brains. More importantly, the author does not mention that there are major research methodological flaws in the study, including lack of random assignment to treatment (ECT vs. antidepressants vs. placebo), lack of a control group of patients matched on all variables but treatment, and lack of raters and research participants blind to which treatment they received. He does not tell readers that without these essential experimental ingredients, there are serious doubts about the validity of the study and that the variability in outcome of the (cognitive status) participants has anything to do with the treatment (ECT).
Assessment: I find little of redeeming value in this book. All treatments and interventions, including his "genuine understanding," have their benefits and risks, including the risks and benefits of providing ineffective or no treatment. The few important and valid points Dr. Breggin does make are eclipsed by the same reasoning flaws he levels at mainstream psychiatry.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826129345
  • Publisher: Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/17/2007
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 576
  • Sales rank: 806,731
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter R. Breggin, MD, is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and former full-time consultant at NIMH. He is in private practice in Ithaca, New York, and the author of dozens of scientific articles and more than twenty books. Some of his many books include Toxic Psychiatry, Talking Back to Ritalin, The Antidepressant Fact Book, and The Heart of Being Helpful: Empathy and the Creation of a Healing Presence, and, with co-author Ginger Breggin, Talking Back to Prozac. His most recent publications include Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide, and Crime (2008) and Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry: Drugs, Electroshock and the Psychopharmaceutical Complex, Second Edition (SPC, 2008). Dr. Breggin is the founder and director of The Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy, Education and Living ( His professional website is

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Read an Excerpt

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Table of Contents

  1. Preface: A Word About Words


    Introduction: Confirming the Science Behind the First Edition

  2. The Brain-Disabling, Spellbinding Effects of Psychiatric Drugs

  3. Deactivation Syndrome (Chemical Lobotomy) Caused by Neuroleptics

  4. Neuroleptic-Induced Anguish, Including Agitation, Despair, and Depression

  5. Severe and Potentially Irreversible Neurological Syndromes (Tardive Dyskinesia and Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrom) Caused by Neuroleptics

  6. Neuroleptic-Induced Neurotoxicity, Brain Damage, Persistent Cognitive Deficits, Dementia, and Psychosis

  7. Recent Developments in Antidepressant Label Changes

  8. Antidepressant-Induced Mental, Behavioral and Cerebral Abnormalities

  9. Lithium and Other Drugs for Bipolar Disorder

  10. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) for Depression

  11. From Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to Bipolar Disorder: Diagnosing America's Children

  12. Stimulant-Induced Brain Damage, Brain Dysfunction, and Psychiatric Adverse Reactions

  13. Antianxiety Drugs, Including Behavioral Abnormalities Caused by Xanax and Halcion

  14. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Drug Company Advocates

  15. Drug Company Deceptions

  16. How to More Safely Stop Taking Psychiatric Drugs

  17. Failed Promises, Last Resorts, and Psychotherapy

  18. Appendix: Psychiatric Medications by Category


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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2008

    Drugs Cause Chemical Lobotomy -- Of Course!

    During my 46 years it is obvious that by design common drugs of use and abuse cause chemical lobotomy. Diseases like premature senility and obesity are as linked to drug use and a generally toxic environment as fingers in a glove. I also have the good or bad luck to be seated in rooms where lobotomy of the American intellectual were discussed and planned. You would think that after more than four decades the public looking at their fat stomachs and bizarre diseases would have placed 2 + 2 together and figured out they have been had by the greatest campaign to induce futility in American history. This being said, Peter Breggin is a true hero of the type we associate with Walter Reed and Louis Pasteur. Suppose Breggin is wrong at times and he does think in black and white, still he has given up the opportunity to make $300,000 a year to be handmaiden to the drug industry to search for a find the truth, Breggin is a compassionate man recognizing as I have that drugs spellbind, that is lobotomize and reduce the theory of self. Whoever disagrees obviously does not have a relative on Paxil and Xanax who has become a new person, inferior to what they had been. Bravo Breggin -- you are loved and appreciated by many who have never met you but greatly admire you.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2012

    Psychiatry is a scam

    Psychiatry is a scam

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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