This month, a shocking claim was made by the former chief of the American
Journal of Psychiatry, Nancy Andreasen, when she published her findings that
antipsychotic drugs, such as Risperadone, actually shrink the brain over time.
Ms. Andreasen began a long-running study in 1991 on schizophrenia patients taking antipsychotics, periodically measuring their brain volumes with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Two years later, she reported "progressive brain volume reductions" in her patients and initially concluded that the shrinkage was associated with "a worsening of negative symptoms, functional impairment and cognitive decline." At that time, her premise was that the shrinkage was due to the disease and that the antipsychotics failed to stop it.
Concurrent to Andreasen’s findings, other studies in both animals and patients with schizophrenia indicated that the drugs might very well aggravate or possibly even cause the shrinkage. Further studies then concluded that the occurrences of shrinkage were in fact caused by the drugs themselves and were dose-related. Her findings were recently published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, a journal of the American Medical Association.
The reason these discoveries are so alarming is that antipsychotics are now widely prescribed to control behavioral issues and treat other "non-psychotic" conditions such as ADD and autism. Journalistic investigations have shown that antipsychotics are widely dispensed to children on Medicaid at a much higher rate, mostly in lieu of individual therapy and family counseling. Additionally, Medicaid reimbursements for the drug are much higher than that of traditional therapy, creating many instances of overprescribing. Courts also often order the use of antipsychotics for those within the criminal justice system.
Even more upsetting, antipsychotics generate huge profits for pharmaceutical companies, to the point where they find it cost-effective to absorb the many lawsuits and false advertising complaints that emerge from their widespread usage.
Long-term use of antipsychotics must be stopped and their use on the still developing brains of children should be banned. There can be no justification for giving antipsychotics to someone who is not even psychotic.
Where is the public outrage and mainstream media coverage on this issue?
These findings, along with the horrible side effects of massive weight gain, permanent tremors and diabetes that are already associated with antipsychotics, should prompt an immediate review of their rampant, off-label use.
Additionally, the media needs to do a much better job of disseminating this type of information to the public once it’s known, so individuals with neurological disorders and their families are better informed of the potential health risks associated with these types of drugs.