Panorama is the longest-running current affairs documentary program in the world.  It was launched on 11 November 1953 on the BBC Television Service and focuses on investigative journalism. The abusive misuse of antipsychotic drugs is a serious problem worldwide, and probably one of its worse-kept secrets.  These chemical restraints are simply used to reduce staff cost in hospitals.  All have been 'Black Boxed' with FDA warnings in the U.S. because antipsychotic drugs are associated with an increased risk of death when used in elderly patients treated for dementia-related psychosis.The British Health Ministry has ordered the use of anti-psychotic drugs for dementia patients cut by two-thirds by November 2011  Vince

An elderly father sedated with a 'chemical cosh' of powerful drugs and secretly filmed by his daughter. Families who care for their loved ones at home to help them come off the anti-psychotic drugs that worsen their symptoms and shorten their lives.

As the government orders a crackdown on the use of these drugs among the elderly, Vivian White reports on the crisis of care in the treatment of patients with dementia.


Mon 1 Nov 2010 20:30 BBC One (except HD) Thu 4 Nov 2010 04:30 BBC News Channel Fri 5 Nov 2010 00:30 BBC One (except Northern Ireland, Wales) Sat 6 Nov 2010 00:30 BBC One (Northern Ireland only) Sat 6 Nov 2010 01:30                                                                                                                                                       CLICK ON IMAGE ABOVE TO ACCESS THIS FILM CLIP BBC One (Wales only) Sun 7 Nov 2010 20:30 BBC News Channel           1 November 2010 Last updated at 06:20 ET

Doctors told to cut anti-psychotic drugs for dementia

The use of anti-psychotic drugs for dementia patients must be cut by two-thirds by November 2011, the minister responsible has warned doctors.

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow sets out limits for use of anti-psychotics in dementia sufferers.

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow told Panorama that GPs must "take responsibility" and drastically reduce the amount of drugs being prescribed.

Evidence suggests the drugs - used to control aggressive behaviour - have dangerous side effects.

A leading GP said most doctors agree that their use needs to be curtailed.

Mr Burstow said the evidence for cutting their use is compelling: "It kills people. It cuts their lives short. It reduces the quality of their lives. It is now time for those responsible for prescribing to take responsibility and cut the prescribing, and make sure we improve the quality of life for people with dementia."

Continue reading the main story


Panorama, BBC One Monday, 1 November at 2030GMT'Chemical cosh'

A study commissioned for the government reported in 2009 that anti-psychotics are being prescribed to 180,000 patients and their side effects, including increased risk of stroke, mean that the deaths of 1,800 people a year are attributable to their use.

Mr Burstow, the Liberal Democrat minister, campaigned in opposition on behalf of dementia patients and their families to reduce the reliance on the drugs both for patients being cared for at home and those in care facilities.

Continue reading the main story

Most of the drugs were developed in the 1950s for the treatment of psychosis and are not licensed for long term use with dementia.

They are prescribed "off label" for dementia patients because of their strong sedative effects and doctors have turned to them to deal with the behavioural symptoms of dementia patients.

They are supposed to be used as a last resort and only prescribed for short periods and one at a time.

Professor Tim Kendall, who wrote the current guidelines on when and how anti-psychotics should be used, is critical of how much they are being relied upon.

"By far and away the most common use is to control people's behaviours. It's nothing more than a chemical cosh," he said.

The government currently spends more than £80m on anti-psychotic drugs for dementia patients a year - and spends £8.2bn overall in the treatment of dementia.

"I don't think we're spending that £8.2 billion at all well. If we were spending it well we wouldn't have this unacceptable level of prescribing anti-psychotics in the system," Mr Burstow said.

'Virtually comatose'

Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said reliance on the drugs is part of a wider problem in the system and most GPs agree that their use needs to be reduced.

"This isn't just about prescribing, this is about the whole system. It needs to change the system is a disgrace as it is at the moment and we all need to do better."

Glynne Thompson has been attempted to wean her husband Ken, who she cares for at home, off the anti-psychotics that he was prescribed in order to control his behaviour as his dementia worsened.

"He was virtually comatose is the only way to explain it - constantly dribbling, it was like being confronted with a baby that couldn't do anything for themselves," Mrs Thompson said of the side effects of the drugs.

Panorama: What Have the Drugs Done to Dad, BBC One, Monday, 1 November at 2030GMT and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.

Written by Christine Allen   

Thursday, 28 October 201

Forced treatment

A Cork woman who has been battling for the rehabilitation of her mentally ill partner is to speak at an upcoming conference in UCC to debate the justification of power held by psychiatric services. Grainne Humphrys is a mental health campaigner but also the long-term partner of 30-year-old John Hunt, a resident at Carraig Mór in Shanakiel.

Diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia, John was first detained in 2006 after he suffered a breakdown. Grainne started an online campaign for his release this year from what she calls a “psychiatric prison” and a “chemical straightjacket”.

John is currently taking a cocktail of drugs, including anti-psychotics Solian and Clopixol, sleeping tablets, anti-anxiety tablets and Largactil, which has caused his teeth to rot and has resulted in the loss of four so far.

His partner believes that he is overmedicated and in need of rehabilitation to remedy the “inadequate response” by the medical profession.

“I believe that the response John got to his distress was an inadequate response. His distress was medicalised. He was going through a natural healing response as a response to a traumatic childhood and I believe that this process was interrupted with the use of psychiatric medication and forced treatment.

“He was excluded from the community and has become dependent and institutionalised. This experience has added years to John's recovery process,” she said.

She added that social factors and John’s life experience were not taken into account.  

“His experiences were taken out of context and rather than looking at the root cause, he was labelled, drugged and incarcerated. This is a shocking violation of his human and civil rights. We need to change our response to human distress,” she said. 


Just last July, he celebrated his 30th birthday with Grainne and their son Josh with a day out in Cork.

“The days out have given John new hope for his future. He speaks a lot about Joshua, our son, and how much he wants to be a part of his life. John is still keen to get out and the six-hour pass every two weeks has given him something to work towards. We still have a long way to go,” she said.

“I believe John has been re-traumatised by his experiences in the mental health services. I think it is paramount that an alternative for John is found as soon as possible. He needs to gradually be weaned off institutional life and brought back out into the community where he belongs.”

She said John would now have to overcome psychiatric drug addiction, iatrogenic dependency, lost years and chemical damage.

“He will have to heal from the horrors and isolation of forced treatment and the silencing of his voice for so long, on top of his original traumas. I believe that if I wasn't fighting this battle for John, he would be forgotten and that is a tragedy beyond comprehension.”

The free, two-day conference is organised by the Catherine McAuley School of Nursing and Midwifery and the School of Applied Social Studies at University College Cork (UCC) and will take place on 10 and 11 November.

The conference is also being held in memory of the late Dr Michael Corry, a mental health campaigner and keynote speaker at last year’s conference who passed away earlier this year.

Cork Independent columnist, John McCarthy will also address the conference, as will Dr Pat Bracken, a West Cork consultant psychiatrist who hopes to open a debate on the power held by the psychiatric services in Ireland.

He told the Cork Independent that no other branch of the medical profession held such power.

He said it was time for a debate and an interesting time in Ireland, as over the past ten years, Irish people had begun to question those deemed to be superior in society.

Comments (1) »

Forced 'Treatment'written by Mary Maddock, October 28, 2010MindFreedom Ireland have been campaigning for years against forced 'treatment'. Unfortunately John is only one of many people who has his human rights abused. Force is violence even if it mistakenly done for the 'good' of another. Let the psychiatric system replace the power of force with the power of love. Then the revolving door will collapse and people in distress will find true healing.

Do Antidepressants Worsen the Long-term Course of Depression? Giovanni Fava Pushes the Debate Forward

By Robert Whitaker Created Oct 25 2010 - 11:05am

In 1994, Italy's Giovanna Fava, editor-in-chief of the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, wrote for the first time of his concern that "long-term use of antidepressant drugs may increase, in some cases, the biochemical vulnerability to depression, and worsen its long-term outcomes and symptomatic expression." Since then, Fava has periodically revisited this issue, and he recently published an updated review of the literature in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry.

Here is a sampling of what he found in the research literature:

• After six months of antidepressant treatment, the drugs "generally fail to protect" against a return of depressive symptoms. (In other words, maintenance treatment is ineffective, compared to placebo.)

• Two-thirds of patients maintained on antidepressants suffer from "residual symptoms," with "anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, cognitive impairment, and irritability the most commonly reported."

• As patients are switched from one antidepressant to another or to a polypharmacy regimen, their illness may be propelled "into a refractory phase, characterized by low remission, high relapse and high intolerance."

• Antidepressants increase the risk of a "switch" into mania, and thus into bipolar illness. Antidepressants also increase the risk that bipolar patients will become rapid cyclers, and that bipolar patients will develop a syndrome dubbed "Chronic Irritable Dysphoria."

As I wrote in a previous post, our society desperately needs to have an informed discussion on this issue: Do psychiatric medications worsen the long-term course of psychiatric disorders (in the aggregate)? Fava has focused his attention on the "affective disorders," and in this article on antidepressants, he concludes:

"When we prolong treatment over 6-9 months, we may recruit processes that oppose the initial acute affects of antidepressant drugs (lack of clinical effects.) We may also propel the illness to a malignant and treatment-unresponsive course that may take the form of resistance or episode acceleration. When drug treatment ends, these processes may be unopposed and yield withdrawal symptoms and increased vulnerability to relapse. Such processes are not necessarily reversible."

Fava has been banging this drum for 16 years now. One wishes that the NIMH and American psychiatry would, at long last, address this concern head-on, and inform the public about it too. But I am not holding my breath.

Doctors ignored drugs warnings

Reporter: JANICE BARKER18 October 2010

A 30-year-old document revealing doctors’ fears about the number of people addicted to benzodiazepine drugs has been uncovered by the Beat the Benzos group.And Oldham campaigner Barry Haslam says it is a scandal that the medical profession ignored warnings, including evidence of brain damage, so many years ago.Mr Haslam, who was himself left brain damaged after 10 years addicted to Ativan, discovered through a Freedom of Information request that experts at the Medical Research Council met in 1981 to debate the problems of benzodiazepine addiction and withdrawal.Experts there included psychiatrists and consultants interested in GP medicine and drug withdrawal. The minutes show representatives from drug companies Roche and Wyeth were contacted to be observers.Other documents show that a study of 14 patients who were long-term benzodiazepine users underwent CT scans which showed that two had brain atrophy and five had borderline brain damage.Now, Heywood and Middleton MP Jim Dobbin, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Involuntary Tranquillise Addiction (APGGITA), is writing to the MRC to ask what happened to the report, if any further action was taken and what is their current assessment of the position.The minutes show that almost 30 years ago, the experts were saying benzos should not be prescribed for long periods, should not be abruptly withdrawn and called for a study of methods of withdrawing to keep adverse effects to a minimum.They also discussed a study showing that patients who stopped taking the drugs in the first four weeks probably achieved recovery through counselling from their doctors, rather than the drug.Between 1967 and 1978 the number of long-term repeat prescriptions for benzodiazepines doubled every year and 50 per cent were given without a consultation, they were told.Mr Haslam, who is an adviser to APPGITA, and campaigned to open the country’s only NHS-funded benzo-withdrawal service in Oldham, said: “It is a scandal that the medical profession ignored a report showing half the people in the study were brain damaged.“The report may have gone into medical journals but nothing seems to have happened after that.“Words fail me. It is incredible that this was being discussed 30 years ago.“If this had been acted on perhaps I would not have had to suffer brain damage and all the other people affected might have been saved.”