Peter Breggin, MD, has been known as the “conscience of psychiatry” since his crusade starting in the 1970s to abolish psycho-surgery (lobotomization) and electro-convulsive therapy.
Since then, he's become an outspoken critic of the entire psychiatric profession, largely based on their reliance on neurotoxic drugs instead of humane and effective treatment options.
I heard Dr. Breggin give two talks at last year's Wellness Forum Health conference; one on the history of psychiatric abuse of patients, and the other on the heart of healing from negative emotions and trauma (he refuses to use the term “mental illness”).
With roughly 25% of the US population taking a psych med at any given time, and the known damage that these substances do over time, my fervent wish is that everyone spend a day in the presence of this modern-day prophet of compassion, love, and humanism. That explains this timing of this interview, which is publishing exactly one month before the next Wellness Forum Health conference, in Columbus, Ohio on November 10-12.
If you're interested in evidence-based health, and you want to inoculate yourself against false claims and fake news and self-serving industrial medicine, I can't recommend this conference highly enough.
Joining me as co-host for today's episode is my 17-year-old son Elan, who has been fascinated and inspired by Dr. Breggin's work since discovering it earlier this year.
Many of his friends have been treated with psych meds, and he has witnessed their destabilizing and often dehumanizing effects on people he cares deeply about.
I hope he decides to become a regular co-host on shows with issues that light his fire – if you agree, drop us a line in comments 🙂
Dr. Breggin, Elan, and I discussed:
- the history of psychiatric human rights abuses
- the goal of psychiatry: subdued, compliant humans
- human nature and the abuse of power
- Dr. Breggin's first peak at the psychiatric industry as a college freshman
- similarities between mental hospitals and World War II concentration camps
- the healing power of a caring relationship
- the shocking FDA rules on drug approval criteria
- how Eli Lilly conspired to hide the suicidal impact of their drugs from consumers
- the modern epidemic of ADHD and the first generation to grow up on amphetamines
- why people think that their meds are helping (intoxication anosognosia, or “medical spellbinding”)
- depressed people are simply more optimistic than normal
- how to use dialog and compassion to help children change their behaviors
- the importance of trust in a therapeutic relationship
- how to democratize mental health initiatives
- how and why to stop taking psychiatric meds
- the uses and abuses of empathy
- how Dr Breggin lost 30 pounds on a plant-based diet, and how his wife Ginger was relieved of decades of painful and debilitating symptoms within weeks
- the ideal human diet of food and relationships
- and much more…
Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.
Addendum November 14, 2017: I met my hero at the Wellness Forum Health Conference in Columbus, Ohio this past weekend. I can't begin to explain my facial expression:
Dr Breggin's website: Breggin.com
Dr Breggin's books (a tiny sample)
Download the transcript in PDF format, or read it online below:
HOWARD: Doctor Peter Breggin, welcome to the Plant Yourself Podcast!
DR. BREGGIN: Oh, I’m really glad to be with you, Howard, and I look forward to our actually doing things together as I get more involved in the nutritional issues, which I think you and Pam Popper and some other people have really nailed down for the first time.
HOWARD: Well, yeah, there is so many moving parts to a human being, and one of the things that I’ve learned from your work is the utter complexity of our inner lives, our emotional lives, and… so the more holistically we can all come together in empathy and in evidence, the better the world will be.
DR. BREGGIN: 100% with you on that.
HOWARD: So, I wanted to begin by asking you a question you already told me you can just talk for the next hour and a half on without any help from me, but I do want to bring you in on this issue because… just to help the listeners who may not be familiar with your work and who may be drinking the mainstream Kool-Aid around psychiatry and psychiatric meds, so on your podcast, there is a voiceover that begins by introducing you as the “Conscience of Psychiatry,” and I would love for you to kind of help us understand why the psychiatric profession needs to have a conscience. What’s it doing that is unconscionable?
DR. BREGGIN: Well, I got that wonderful designation from Bert Karon, who is now an emeritus professor of psychology at Michigan State University, and Bert gave me that designation way back in the early 70s when he heard me give a talk at the American Psychiatric Association on stopping lobotomy. So, I had begun in 1971 and 1972 to conduct an international campaign to stop the return of lobotomy and other forms of psychosurgery, which is mutilating the brain for psychiatric purposes, and people were doing it with the old surgical method of slicing the frontal lobes and they were doing it with new methods by planting radium seeds to kill portions of the frontal lobe, injecting electrodes down into the brain and heating up the electrodes to make walnut-size lesions, just melting the brain... in order to control behavior.
And I was just appalled that this was coming back at the time I was actually writing novels and conducting a private practice because psychiatry had gone in the direction that I didn’t like, but I didn’t think I would try to take on the whole field. I was writing novels, got two published, both of them dealt with psychiatry, but when I saw this coming back, I just couldn’t bear it. What I didn’t realize was that psychiatry, the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, most of the press, just about any organization you can look at and institutions were going to fight this one lone young psychiatrist, three or four years out of my training, just finished with a two-year stint at the National Institute of Mental Health, that they were going to bring down the whole weight down on me for daring to say that the psychiatric treatment was unscientific, unethical, and horrendously damaging to the human being and the expression of the human psyche.
In this process I found that psychiatry had no conscience. So, I was very pleased to be making a conscience of psychiatry, and by no conscience, I mean that the profession since its inception, which was in the state mental hospitals during the industrial revolution when cities were overwhelmed with poor people and street people, people coming in from the farms as they were taken over by larger aggregates of power and money, and we developed these poor houses to lock them up in, and the poor houses also became mad houses… where somewhat indistinguishable and sometimes the exact same thing… and eventually a psychiatrist got put in charge of them so that they would look more sanitary, and they called them general hospitals, but they were for the psychiatric patients throughout the Western world starting in France.
In these hospitals, patients were locked up against their will under civil commitment rather than criminal charges because there weren’t any criminal charges to bring against them, and even in France they were protected in the 1800s by enough laws to prevent them from being locked up, so they made up civil commitment – this is for your own good, you’re a danger to yourself and to other people – without having to prove any of it. And we got these giant lockups throughout the Western world, and within these lockups, psychiatrists began to torture their patients to control them because they were out of control. Psychiatrists didn’t know about love, empathy, caring, improving the environment, changing the architecture, you know, developing work programs and rehabilitation programs and so on. What psychiatrists knew was using medicine, these new surgeries, so they went to work.
During the 1930s, which is the only revolution in psychiatry that ever occurred, they discovered that destroying brain tissues rather than just giving toxins to people was the effective way to control people, so where previously we’d been beating people or putting people in cold water or bleeding people or giving them doses of arsenic or whatever other poison was around at that time, purging them, you know, giving them nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea… all these things, which made people docile in the state hospital that psychiatry was doing in the name of treatment because we’re physicians… they just didn’t work very well. People still rebelled! Then, they found out that if you overdose somebody with insulin and kill brain cells in the process – put them in a severe coma – they come out really cooperative for a while. And if you do an electric shock treatment and destroy brain cells, that was the next one. That did it, too. Around the same time in 1938, they came up with lobotomy, which is just going in and destroying brain tissue.
Egas Moniz from Portugal, who was a neurologist in Portugal, got a Nobel prize for lobotomy… just bizarre… and he came to the US. Walt Freeman did 5,000 lobotomies in a traveling show, going around the state mental hospitals, and he’d bring in patients he’d never met or talked to and stick an ice pick, sometimes in both eyes at once around the eyeball, into the frontal lobes, swish it around, and lobotomize the person with unsterile equipment in front of an amphitheater of approving physicians and show off by doing… both hands around each eye ball at one time. He knew he was destroying people. He wrote about it openly in his textbook. You know, they can’t think. There isn’t as much imagination. They’re more primitive. They’re more concrete. Judgement is impaired. But they are more manageable. And nobody protested! A few people complained within the profession, but nobody stood up and said this is immoral and has to stop.
And then I did. And I didn’t just say it to the profession. I said it to the world, and I eventually did stop it so it is very sporadically used now. I stopped it… I went to Europe and I stopped it throughout Europe, North America, US, and Canada, and even in some projects overseas in the Far East, I stopped because I just told the truth about what it was doing, and at that moment, more and more struck me that I could not rely on psychiatry or medicine, as it was often involved in these issues, and the neurology profession supported the AMA and so on. I realized that the psychiatric kinds of treatments and probably the whole host that you’re dealing with now in the nutrition area that I’m beginning to deal with… they don’t change! They don’t have a conscience. They are self-maintaining, self-aggrandizing institutions that want money. They want power. They want influence. They want to be adored, respected. That’s all what psychiatry strives to do and medicine strives to do.
So, just one thought just to tie it into all the rest. I couldn’t in the beginning understand why I would get so attacked over lobotomy, and then it began to dawn on me that all psychiatric treatments, drugs, electric shocks, psychosurgery, no matter what it is that’s being done by psychiatrists and medical docs, basically create lobotomy-like effects. So that every treatment we use destroys or harms brain tissues efficiently to make us less us, so we’re in the long run, whatever it does in the first two weeks and in the long run, meaning three weeks or four weeks or whatever, sometimes the first dose, just subdues us as humans. And that began this work that I do now. Now, I’ve been joined by so many other great people, but at that point, I was alone and scared. And Bert Karon, who gave me that designation, was one of my very first supporters when I came under attack 30 years ago… what is it now…. 30, 45 years ago?
HOWARD: Yeah, a long time.
DR. BREGGIN: 1972 is what… now 2017… 45 years.
HOWARD: Yeah, 45 years. So, curious about your biography that got you to that point. Presumably you went into psychiatry not because you thought it was an inhumane, evil endeavor. Most psychiatrists that I know, I don’t think of them as sort of blood-thirsty, masochistic, or sadistic villains, but what did you experience and see that made you diverge so completely from your colleagues?
DR. BREGGIN: Well, first let me start with this interesting thing you said, which most of the psychiatrists you meet are not narcissistic, sadistic villains. I do believe that if you met any large group of people who are murdering other people, you would not find them to look on the surface very different from other humans. I don’t think if you were to go to Nazi Germany, which we’ll get into discussing, it’s not a mere metaphor, you would find lots of very nice people. I don’t think that Adolf Eichmann, he was so important in the organization of the Holocaust, came across as a sadistic, mean villain. In fact, he talked about how much he respected Jewish tradition at his trial, I believe. So, um, the point isn’t people who are aberrations from humanity. Human beings have, since time began, abused anybody they had power over on a large scale. Men have abused women. Men and women have abused children. Older children have abused younger children. Tribes have destroyed other tribes going back as far as we can track. People have had wars over all kinds of issues, and all of this continues today, and it is a part of human nature, and a social organization doesn’t help it a lot of the time.
So, my view is that psychiatry, not psychiatry in terms of psychology and psychotherapy, which have never been a big part of psychiatry, but psychiatry is one of those opportunities – there aren’t many of them in the Western world – where you can wear a suit and control other human beings, drug them, shock them, diagnose them, put them in mental hospitals. So, people who want to do that are drawn into that, and practically every psychiatrist, maybe exceptions would be one in a thousand, goes through the process. Maybe everyone, really, goes through the process of giving shock treatments during residency, knocking down people with huge doses of drugs in an emergency room. They read about psychosurgery along the way and don’t rebel.
And in that process, if they rebel in any way at all, they get fired out of their residency because I knew some people who were in that situation when we first started really looking at what we were doing, and people who knew Thomas Szasz, he was one of the very first people within the profession to criticize it. Everybody who criticized would be fired along the way for standing up on these issues. So, you have a closed system with huge power over other human beings, which allows the satisfaction that many men and a significant portion of women get from controlling and subduing other people, so they don’t have to be sadist; they just have to be a large part of the human population that does these things. I mean, where else can you do that? You’re going to be more heavily supervised in the CIA for say, trying to waterboard somebody than you would in the ordinary psychiatric practice for damaging their brains with an electric shock treatment to accomplish somewhat the same effect, which is to make someone docile and cooperative.
DR. BREGGIN: So, I never made that comparison before about the CIA in terms of the fact that what they are allowed to do under the law… I’m sure they’ve exceeded it at times as all institutions do, but under the law, they can’t even waterboard now, I don’t think, and yet psychiatrists do things that make waterboarding look minor, you know. They harm people’s brains permanently on a regular basis with drugs and electric shock. And they still don’t have any policies within psychiatry against lobotomy.
HOWARD: So… what happened to you? You didn’t get fired? You went into psychiatry…
DR. BREGGIN: Well, no, no. I have to take you back a little bit. I’d gotten involved in psychiatry when I was 18 years old and a freshman in Harvard College, and a friend asked me to come volunteer at the state mental hospital. He said, look at you studying all the time. I was in a special honors program in American History and Literature and I thought I’d go on and be a professor in the field or maybe become a lawyer, not a medical doc [chuckles]. Maybe a psychologist, but I wasn’t majoring in psychology. I went out to this hospital, and the first thing that struck me was how similar it looked, the state mental hospital to my uncle Dutch’s liberation of an extermination camp in Nazi Germany during World War II. The patients were HORRIBLY kept. They looked malnourished as they were. They looked beaten down and harmed as they were all. The people who took charge of them were extremely callous, and what I didn’t know but would learn later was the death rates were extremely high as well, completing sort of the comparison to the extermination camp. What I found when I walked in and spent about the first 10 or 15 minutes was that as a pleasant looking college volunteer, people in the violent wards would come up to me and just beg for a little attention and a little conversation. And I found none of these violent people look violent toward me at least. Most of the violence I saw was in the eyes of very untrained and poorly paid aids, and I found out how violent they were over the years, as I ended up running the program.
So, I realized from the beginning that these were human beings, and when I saw a Radcliffe student, I’d never forget that from our sister college… now they can go to Harvard too, which is a great thing… I saw a Radcliffe student, as I was told, lying on the floor motionless and ignored, and I thought to myself, my god, this is really stressful, my first year at Harvard. I mean, what stands between me and that person, and I thought “nothing.” Nothing! At that point, I’d given up believing in God, which I did throughout my childhood. Now that I’d come back to it, I said, there but for the grace of God go I. When I heard that they’d been raped and beaten, when I saw the effects of shock treatments, which I did in an insulin coma treatment – because I ran the program, I actually got keys to the hospital so I could go anywhere – I realized what was happening to these human beings HAD to make them worse. Yet, every time I sat down with one of them, unless they were completely demented by their treatment mostly, sometimes by disease, they RELATED to me.
So, I talked to the superintendent. Much against his will, I threatened to take the program elsewhere. We had already gotten the best publicity in the world for them with a picture of me in the Saturday Evening Post in the 50s [chuckles] working with patients on the wards. I mean, we even got them good coverage within psychiatry because psychiatry then had a social wing, a psychosocial wing. It doesn’t have it any more. Zero now. But then you could take a residency in community psychiatry working with folks. No more. So, I developed the program, and he finally acquiesced to it. With 12 of us, we get our patients to work with REGULARLY on schedule every week throughout the school year, and they tried to make sure these patients were so difficult, and we wouldn’t hurt them. The president of the Psychoanalytic Association… I never saw any psychoanalysts on the wards… the president said we’d ruin the patients. Turf wars! I began to see all these. I’m 18 years old or 19 or 20, you know before I’d go on. And the program succeeded. We got almost every patient out of the hospital, much to the shock of everybody. [chuckles] And it was written up as the big deal in the last psychosocial document that would come out of the federal government 1968 report on mental illness and mental health from the National Institute of Health. A big book, and we are in there!
That was before psychiatry became a total partner with the drug companies that screwed everything else. So, I went to medical school knowing that psychiatric teams were doing more harm than good. I’d been reading and reading and studying on my own. I graduated with a degree in social relations and my premedical studies, and mostly I read on my own – the stuff that wasn’t signed. And I knew that people responded incredibly to a caring relationship, and I had an idea for a book, and we got a publisher. It was published two or three years after I was gone by one of the coworkers, but it was my idea and my draft. It [my idea] was taken out by the supervising psychiatrist, but I talked about love. I said these people need love. They need caring. They need affection. They respond to caring relationships. Well, it was a little too much for them. But I knew that from the beginning. How did I know that? It wasn’t because I was brought up to understand it, I can tell you that. [chuckles] It was almost the fact that I was brought up without all those things I saw people needed that made me feel ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ and people need loving relationships to EMPOWER them, and later I would realize that there’s a wisdom that can be conveyed, the importance of the therapeutic separation and objectivity, NOT objectivity, but boundaries. Objectivity is a ridiculous word when dealing with people. It’s just a killer. But a caring relationship is protected by boundaries, so I got started that way. When I got to medical school, everything I saw, I realized, was fake science. It wasn’t hard at all to discover. All you had to do was look at the paper cited in a psychiatric textbook, and ultimately it didn’t say anything about that was being cited.
HOWARD: So, let me get into the minds of some listeners who might be with you about lobotomy and electric shock and insulin comas and gouging people’s brains out through their eyeballs, and there are impressions that, you know, since the 1980s since Prozac and the SSRIs and latest drugs, psychiatry has become at least benign and possibly helpful, and they know people or maybe they themselves are on these drugs, and they’re saying, “Well, you know, I didn’t kill myself. I didn’t become violent. I got out of the pit of despair. I’m functioning.” Your take and the evidence you and folks like Bob Whitaker of Mad in America and his books have really pointed out that this is a giant illusion. Can you help pop that illusion for listeners?
DR. BREGGIN: Yeah, there’s many different approaches to that. The first thing maybe would be to use some simple analogies to more familiar things. We know that all the various psychiatric substances that people use really aren’t good for them. We know that smoking to calm your nerves does not work that well. We know that drinking to control your anxiety or your rage or whatever else doesn’t work that well. We know that taking LSD doesn’t work that well. We probably don’t fully realize how much marijuana really doesn’t work that well. Any psychoactive substance is a neurotoxin. They all work by impairing the function of the brain. If we read a book that’s gotten the title neurotoxicity or neurotoxins, it’s going to have psychiatric drugs in there because many of them are classic neurotoxins that have been studied for years like lithium, and you will see under neurotoxicity various adverse effects of the SSRIs, neurotoxic effects, serotonin syndrome or neuroleptic malignant syndrome from the antipsychotic drugs and so on.
They are neurotoxins, so what are the odds that the neurotoxins are going to be helpful in the long run? They may give you an artificial high in the beginning. People sniff glue, another neurotoxin, to get an artificial high, nitrous oxide to impair the brain function so they get a high. But they don’t work in the long run, and they are not dealing with the person’s problems in the terrible ways of avoiding coming to grips with yourself, and they harm the brain. It just isn’t good to disrupt the brain’s function. So how in the world do the drug companies get away with this? I didn’t know much about that – how in the world they got away with it. I could see that how damaging the drugs were just from seeing people on them and talking to them in a caring way and seeing the limits of their responsiveness on the drugs and how much they were better off the drugs.
But then in 1993, I was made the psychiatric scientist for all the combined Prozac suits. By 1994, there were nearly 200 suits against Eli Lilly, the manufacture of Prozac, for causing violent suicide mayhems and things like that – horrible behavioral reactions. So, I, for the first time, really studied how things work. By the way, I was appointed by consortium of dozens of attorneys, and then a federal judge put his imprimatur on me to do this. So, I began interviewing FDA people about the drug approval process. I went to courses put on by industry to teach leaders of drug companies and their minions how to get things through the FDA process. I reviewed the scientific literature on Prozac, and I finally… well, into further steps, I really went deeply into the FDA approval process, and I analyzed it, and I analyzed the scientific literature, and finally I went inside Eli Lilly, and I got cartons of their materials to look at. And then I found these bizarre things going on, which made clear that the FDA was simply in collaboration with Eli Lilly to get Prozac passed.
HOWARD: Eli Lilly is the manufacture of Prozac.
DR. BREGGIN: Prozac. And among other things, the trials were supposed to last six weeks, and you heard me right, folks. It may have taken eight years or whatever to get it approved, but the clinical trials where they study people in placebo-controlled studies only lasted or were supposed to last six weeks, maybe eight. And a lot of them could only last four! Why? Because the drugs were so neurotoxic that people were dropping out! They get apathetic and indifferent or they get high or they get sexual difficulties based on harm to their central nervous system and their brain. They would feel sick. They just dropped out! The family would notice that they were uptight, anxious, and nervous, all things caused routinely by the drug. So, the FDA let them continue the studies even though they were falling short of the six weeks and then even to put in statistical slights of hand to be able to evaluate patients at six weeks where they were last known only at four weeks. I mean bizarre things like that.
I found out other things that no one had EVER EVER written anything about, which is that all of the patients were first… all of this still goes on… all of the patients were put on a placebo. If you reacted to the placebo, you were dropped out. That skews things in the favor of the drug company drastically to first give everybody the placebo and drop out the people who respond to the placebos and then go do a trial, a random trial where you divide people up into placebos, which you would’ve mostly gotten rid of those people who were placebo responders, and… I mean, it was just a mess. Then, I found out further that the drug was agitating so many people that the trials were going to fail. So, the drug company, without asking the FDA, put all the patients who were getting agitated on addictive sedatives, tranquilizers and sedatives to calm them down as long as they got the drug approved. So, then they got to the time when they were going to do the approval process, and the FDA looked at it, and they only had two marginal trials that looked remotely trials, which makes no sense at all. That’s not science. But if you get one or two right, you are okay.
HOWARD: You blipped out there for a second. You said, how many trials were they allowed to do to get their two?
DR. BREGGIN: As many as they need!
HOWARD: So, that would be like me shooting a basketball from midcourt being filmed and at the end of the day, two out of 3,000 go in, and those are the ones I get to put on Facebook?
DR. BREGGIN: Without telling anybody what happened.
HOWARD: Just that those were the two.
DR. BREGGIN: That’s what you do!
HOWARD: Yeah, that’s…
DR. BREGGIN: You shoot the basketball and make baskets because no one has ever told the other trials failed badly. I was just reading the Abilify information, and they had like three… they had more failures and successes! That didn’t stop it from getting approved.
DR. BREGGIN: Now, so what the FDA did was they gave them forgiveness for the two trials… there were two of them in particular… where they were allowed sedatives and benzos given to patients to calm them down. They got the company approval for the marginal trials where people were illegally taking benzos to calm them down.
DR. BREGGIN: Not just benzos but sedatives. So, I mean, the manipulations go on and on. I’ll give you one last one. Well, the company was getting reports of suicide, so the Germans asked them… the Germans were getting a lot of suicide reports on their studies, so they asked Eli Lilly to evaluate its trials for suicide, and it was never done properly! So, they evaluated their trials, and they found that a rate of between 6 to 12:1 they were getting suicide attempts, not ideations, suicide ATTEMPTS, comparing the drug to sugar pills AND comparing it to an older anti-depressant, so there was overwhelming evidence that the drug was causing suicide. What did the company do with the data? They never gave it to anybody! I was the first one to make it public. It’s bizarre.
Finally, again getting a lot of suicide data coming in, suicide attempts and completed suicides in Europe. Two Eli Lilly officials wrote memos to all of the company leadership saying, you have sent us orders that when we get a report from our own investigators saying to catalogue this event as a drug-related suicide… see the investigators, people who do the trials working for Eli Lilly, people who do the trials are drug company people. They may be outside the company, but they are basically people they know and hire all the time. But these people are sending in to some of the Europeans, particularly in Germany, this stuff saying, we’re getting a lot of… we’re getting suicides. So, Eli Lilly corporate executives responded by saying, “Reclassify reports of suicide as something else, such as ‘no drug effect,’ such as ‘emotional lability’ (which is one of the mildest things in the whole lexicon dictionary you can use) but don’t log them as suicide attempts or completed.” So, they wrote this memo back to them saying how can we justify this? How are we going to explain this to the public when it comes out? How are we going to explain this to a judge, and how am I going to explain that to my family? A memo sent to the top people, which came out… you know, which I found in the records, and they said, “But we will do as instructed.”
Now, not to get into dizzying heights of conspiracy theory, no one has ever located that man. We have the memos. They are on my website. Go and look up “Eli Lilly documents” or put in “Eli Lilly memos.” You’ll get to this stuff. You’ll see the memo, two memos. So, what goes on behind the scenes? Now, skipping ahead, they do no studies, neuropsychological studies for brain injury during the time people are taking the drugs. They don’t do any. They don’t even do detailed clinical evaluations on whether just how harmed the people are. They just use a little checklist. We now know from scientific studies, and I review these in my latest book Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal. You did mention I’ve written more than 20 books and over 50 scientific articles. They are all on my website. The scientific articles are free on my website. And we now know that every class of drug longer term produces serious and probably irreversible harm to the brain.
HOWARD: So, I wanna jump in there and introduce another guest or co-host, my son Elan is sitting next to me here in the studio.
ELAN: Hello, thank you for having me.
HOWARD: And he wants to… he’s much more interested in your work than in my work, and he and I have been talking… he rose up out of school, so he works… you know, hangs out with lots of people who are un-schoolers or homeschoolers or in high school, and he started noticing… why don’t you kind of say what you… your question?
ELAN: So, most of my friends are on anti-depressants or ADHD medication or both. A lot of them, both, and I’m wondering if this is the first generation to grow up on psych meds.
DR. BREGGIN: Well, it’s among the first. It’s been a rising curve. In 1972, a congressman held a committee meeting criticizing the epidemic of, in 1972, of drugging our kids with amphetamines and amphetamine-like drugs, and the estimates were then between 100,000 and 200,000. We’re now into multi-million, so it’s been a rising curve, and a lot of studies show rates as high as 20%, but you’re among our boys in high school… as you’re discovering it is probably a lot higher than that. We’re now approaching very high… and it is certainly the first in the history of the world first massive social experiments in drugging our children instead of educating and raising them, and instead of providing the services they need, we’re drugging them.
ELAN: So, what happens to these kids who become adults and have been on these drugs for their entire lives?
DR. BREGGIN: Well, first, have you seen any changes in them? I’d be very interested to know. Do they look as lively as you, as caring as you, as interested as you?
ELAN: The latest… the last person I talked to about this. He took, I guess anti-depressants, not any other drugs, just anti-depressants, and the day I talked to him, his dosage was just increased to, I guess the adult amount, and he hasn’t been on them that long, but they have already jumped to the full dosage, and he’s very… he’s not as lively as the last I’d seen him. I guess he was a little bit more excited to be around people before, but now, he sort of had his head down the entire time I talked to him, and when he would laugh, it was kind of forced.
DR. BREGGIN: Yeah. Now you see, he’ll be told by the lying doctors that that’s his depression, but it’s actually the most common adverse effect of the drug. It causes apathy, sadness, depression in people, and they give them more and more of the drug, saying it’s the depression when it’s the drug, and people don’t know the effects. I’ve written a paper you can get on my website on “medication spellbinding.” What it is is something we’ve always known about drugs like alcohol and marijuana that your judgement is impaired while taking it. So, if you’re smoking dope, you think the joke is really funny, and you think the cookie is the best ever. You know, if you’re not smoking dope, you’re not going to think that the joke is funny or profound. It impairs judgement. Alcohol… it’s a national problem. People think they can drive better than ever on alcohol because they are focusing harder, something like that, when they’re impaired on the alcohol. People don’t appreciate the impairments that drugs cause. As far as I know, I’m the first person to give it a name – “medication spellbinding.” When I write papers, I call it “intoxication anosognosia,” not knowing you’re intoxicated.
So, he won’t know what changes are occurring. He might not even notice them or feel them because his judgement is being impaired by harm to his frontal lobes. I hate to talk about somebody I don’t know, and let’s not allow any information about him, and I don’t know precisely what’s happening to him. He could’ve had hit on the head, but the odds in general are going to be after taking these drugs, you look worse. It’s the drugs, and we just have to say that. We just can’t not say that any more. Now, long term, what awaits him is a very high likelihood of permanent impairment of his sexual function in his relationships with the opposite sex or whatever sex he’s attracted to. Now, we have scientific articles on that. I have on my website a resource center called 1 2 3 Antidepressants. I don’t have one yet on stimulants. 1 2 3 Antidepressants and it’s got all the papers in categories to confirm what I’m saying, and then we have lots of studies now about long-term apathy syndrome. People get more and more apathetic. It goes hand in hand with losing sexual interest, and we’re also getting evidence of brain injury, biochemical evidence, MRI evidence of injury to the brain due to prolonged exposure to these drugs. Worse than that, also it’s a gateway to multiple other drugs. Now, if you’re on Ritalin or stimulants, Adderall or any of the drugs given for ADHD pretty much, they’re going to produce immediate apathy syndrome, and we know that from animal research.
ELAN: Umm hmm… uh…
DR. BREGGIN: Go ahead.
ELAN: So, I was completely blown away by a quote in Your Drug May Be Your Problem, saying that the depression that these kids are feeling is because of severe optimism.
DR. BREGGIN: I don’t even remember that quote. But yes. One of the things I deeply experience is that people who get depressed often have very high expectations, and psychiatrists and modern therapists do not approve of high expectations. If you go in and say, “I wanna be the conscience of psychiatry,” they are going to lock you up.
DR. BREGGIN: They’re not going to say, “I want you to meet your expectations and even exceed them.” They’ll say, “You have a biochemical imbalance” according to the therapist, and that’s untrue. Therapists don’t know it, but it’s untrue. Psychiatrists would say, “You have a biochemical imbalance,” which is extremely discouraging. I can’t tell you the joy in the faces of children when I tell them there’s nothing wrong with their brain. And they may even get that they’d been lied to to sell the drug. Kids often see that. So, yes, drugs suppress our spontaneity. Any drug! It doesn’t matter if it’s psychoactive. Even cigarettes would do that to you. They suppress your spontaneity. All psychiatric substances, I believe, in the long run will do that…. and the person doesn’t know it’s happening to them.
Now, what the therapist should be saying… and I’m glad to get on this topic that you are asking those questions. What the therapist should say is, “Listen.” Let’s say it’s a kid. “I’ve just spent 10 minutes with you. You’re really a nice person. I like you a lot.” They perk up immediately, and I look at the psychological or neurological testing that they’ve gotten, and I look at it and say, “Gee, you know what? I read the first paragraph, and there’s nothing in here that says anything about how great you are. There’s nothing in here that says you’ve got such great smiles.” Kids have them, almost all of them, when they meet and I talk to them. “It doesn’t say anything about your love of computers. I think down here it says something about you spend too much time on computers. Well, you love computers!” I’d say, “I want you to find your greatness,” which is a line I got from Psychologist Howie Glasser. It’s the only line I use in therapy because it’s so true. “I want you to find your greatness, and drugs aren’t gonna do that, and you’ve gotten nothing wrong with you, and your parents are here, so they’re willing to work. You’re gonna get through this, as you should by your parents making a lot of changes and by you making changes. That’s all we need to do. You’re good, and you’re gonna fix your family.”
And the children ALWAYS like this, and the kind of parents that come to me USUALLY like this. But of course, there are a lot of other parents who put their kids on drugs – they aren’t going to hear they’ve got to do the work. They want the kids drugged. They want to drop their kids off at the therapist, and they’ve been sold a bill of goods to make them think it’s okay. Well, folks, it’s NOT okay. They’ve been sold a bunch of malarkey. It might fit easily with your lifestyle, but it’s not okay to drop your kids off at the therapist without you being in there and talking and being involved and making changes in how YOU treat your child! And also, I tell the kids and I say this in front of the parents on the first visit. I say, “Even if your parents don’t change, Tommy or Janey, even if your parents don’t change, you still gotta take responsibility and change this stuff! You gotta stop talking crazy. You stopped for 10 minutes when I told you it was crazy. You stopped so I could communicate with you. But you gotta do that on your own. You gotta find better ways of relating. You gotta stop hitting your little sister. You gotta get your act together, so you’re gonna have a good life even if your parents don’t change because ultimately, we’ve got to be responsible for ourselves. But here you are. You’re young, and you shouldn’t have to take that burden on yourself, so we’ll work together.” I mean, the changes are dramatic, often in the first few sessions. In fact, if people don’t come back saying this is working, something is the matter.
ELAN: I have another question about how you get trust between the client and the therapist.
DR. BREGGIN: Well, it’s not really hard because you’re in a very protected relationship where you are not going to be relating outside the relationship. You’re not in a position… you’re not allowed to do any harm, so it’s a safe relationship. I want the person to treat me in the same way to do me no harm and to relate to me in a really nice way. So, that’s what I set up from the beginning. If the person has been exposed to psychiatry, I’d say to start or maybe 10 minutes in, I’d say, I want you to know since you’ve been exposed to psychiatry, I will NEVER increase your drug doses. I only want to decrease them and help you come off of them. If you end up thinking you absolutely need a small amount and can’t get off, that’ll be your decision, but I want to help you go drug free. And that means if you tell me you’re depressed or you want to hurt yourself, you’re suicidal, I’m not going to drug you. So, you can relax about that. It’s not going to be [inaudible] and you’re afraid to tell your psychiatrist because they can drug you. And I’m not going to lock up anybody. If you want to go to a mental hospital, I’ll help you go. I’ll warn you about the risks. Sometimes it’s… it won’t hurt for a short time maybe, but I’m not going to lock you up against your will. So, you can tell me anything you want. The only exception is if you give me information you’re going to hurt somebody else. Well, I’ll have to action about that. I won’t lock you up…. under the law. I’m here to empower you. I want you to reach your greatness, so I’m here to empower you and talk to you. People get pretty quick that this is a very different experience than they had before.
HOWARD: So, hearing this and having read your phenomenally beautiful book The Heart of Being Helpful, knowing that you… one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show beside the honor and delight of talking with you is the upcoming Wellness Forum Health conference that you’re speaking at several times and co-sponsoring. The program that you’re putting together is basically to democratize therapy that my sense of listening to you to describe to Elan what your approach is, it doesn’t require necessarily a graduate and professional degree to be helpful. Can you talk a little bit about taking mental health back to the people from these institutions that have been abusing us with it?
DR. BREGGIN: Yeah. I clearly learned from what we used to call a case aid or a volunteer program of volunteers. I clearly saw what we were doing was much more helpful to the patient than anybody else, and we were doing less harm, and I was a college sophomore at that point and running the program, so I genuinely believe in that, and I believe and I’m hoping that Pam Popper, who really runs it… she’s allowing me to co-sponsor, she’s kind… the Wellness Forum, which by the way you can find on my website, just look at coming events. There’s one coming event in the near future, and it’s in Columbus, Ohio. It’s November 10th through 12th this year and again just look up upcoming events on my website or go to Pam’s website. You can find Pam Popper pretty easy. It’s her 21st conference. I’ve done many conferences, and this is one of a number that I co-sponsored. Pam and I have just created – it’s on her website, it’s not on mine yet – a course that people can take on why and how to stop taking psychiatric drugs, and you do NOT have to be a professional to take that. The course is how… why and how to stop taking psychiatric drugs. So, you could be a trainer and you could put up a certificate saying I’ve taken a Wellness Forum – a very long course with 28 videos of me and books and stuff, it’s a serious endeavor – I’ve taken this and this is my qualification for helping you come off psychiatric drugs. I’m not a medical doctor, but I’m going to do this as part of being a trainer. I mean, you can do whatever you want that’s legal in your state. You just need to figure out what’s legal in your state to do.
So, this is a beginning of that process for getting the information out to everybody and for people to use it in whatever way is legal within their state. Then, our next program that Pam and I may do might very well be training people in empathic therapy with no requirements at all… how to be an empathic therapist with no requirements other than you convince us that you are a well-intended, rational, somewhat wise person. Maybe you’ve raised three kids. Maybe you’re a 50-year-old lady and got grandchildren and you love kids and you want to work with kids, and we believe you, and we’ll give you this certificate which you can use within whatever the legal limits are in your state that you’re trained in empathic… I’m not sure what the word will be yet, maybe empathic coaching, empathic training, empathic healing, something along those lines. So, yes, we’re trying to do that.
I love your phrase. I’ve never used it: “democratize” therapy. I believe that therapy could be provided at an extremely low cost under this method because people don’t have to have very expensive training. They don’t even have to have a GED. I mean, we just don’t think that’s what makes you a good therapist. Pam and I think what makes you a good helper or a therapist is a kind of person you are and then getting some good training in therapy and hopefully with good supervision afterward. We haven’t put all of this together, but good supervision afterward if you want to maybe get a professional degree or a professional certificate, so we’re aiming at trying to do this, and other people have also worked on this for particular therapies. So, it’s not a wholly uncharted territory. Did I answer your question?
HOWARD: Yeah. As a follow-up, you know, I spent many years as a marketer learning how to be empathetic with people so I could sell them things. I now try to use it for higher purposes. One of the things I discovered was that empathy… it wasn’t very difficult, it was a simple concept, but it wasn’t very easy because of all my own inner stuff, and I’m wondering how… what sort of self-healing do you think we need to do in order to be really helpful for others?
DR. BREGGIN: I want to address what you said. You were using it [empathy] for selling stuff as if that was a bad thing. I think that depends on what you’re selling. For example, if you’re going to buy a house… you know, we think a lot of about houses. Ginger and I are very interested in houses… you could be taken around by an ethical sales person, a realtor, who would find out by being caring and empathetic what you really want. For example, if I were to buy a home right now, another home, I would want water on the land, a pond, a stream, lakefront because I love that. Now, I would expect the empathic, caring realtor to not show me anything else because they would know that that is a lifelong feeling of mine, water or with water. Natural water. [chuckles] So, if that person is empathic, we’re going to work really good. Or if my wife says, “I want a kitchen with a lot of light coming in so that I can see the water my husband wants, and I can see the tress and the hill I want.” I expect the realtor to limit to those things through really understanding who we are and what we want in our home. Now, many realtors who are successful would do that, but there are other realtors who would say, “Well, you can’t get everything, you know.” I had a relator a number of years ago who said to me, “You can’t have everything you want,” and I said “I don’t wanna hear that come out of your mouth again.”
DR. BREGGIN: And eventually we stopped working with that person.
HOWARD: Right. So, I guess in my mind the distinction is, are they using empathy to create, you know, to use an unfortunate cliché is that of win-win, or are they using empathy for their own gain to manipulate? I guess that’s what I was thinking of.
DR. BREGGIN: That’s right, and as a professional, one of the things that is supposed to distinguish a professional, I do believe if we look it up somewhere we’d find that professionalism involves a dedication to good service not just to making money. So, if you have a professionalism, that doesn’t mean you’re a psychiatrist medical doctor. It means you have professional responsibility to serve whoever you’re helping, whether it is dance therapy or aromatherapy. If you bring a professionalism, you really are interested in the service being good, and then empathy is an important part of it and is used in a good manner.
HOWARD: Gotcha, so coming back to my question about what kind of work do you think we need to do on ourselves? Do we need to do work on ourselves in order to be empathic and caring for other people or can we quickly cut through that noise and still be helpful even if we’re not entirely enlightened ourselves?
DR. BREGGIN: Well, it doesn’t depend so much on… I don’t think in terms of the work you do, but it’s certainly a good way to look at it. I think of it really in terms of who you are. I mean, if you’re a somebody who can sit and listen to another human being suffering and struggling without feeling guilty, without feeling anxious, without feeling ashamed if you can’t help them, without feeling angry, without feeling numb, all the things I described in Guilt, Shame, and Anxiety. If you can sit there without having those reactions overcome you, and if you have high standards of ethical behavior and a moderate understanding of how childhood affects us, if you have all those things, you’ve done the work already. On the other hand, if you are like most of us who are going into doing this work, we probably don’t have all of that under control, and we should be getting some help to help us become that person, and there’s many avenues to helping you. You know, that’s kind of the way I evaluate it, and because ALL of us are human beings and so fraud, I think that probably ANYBODY who wants to do that kind of work should have supervision where you go and honestly talk with people… nowadays people video and all that. I’ve never liked that much because you want to be yourself when you talk to people. Who wants to be in front of a video? I mean, I struggle to be, but maybe after the third hour or so of long filming I’ll get there, but you want supervision from someone who can help you grow and develop in the way you relate in a helping way. That’s the single most important thing. So, I’ve given you a bunch of different kinds of answers there.
HOWARD: Right. So, I’m looking at the time, and we’ve already gone over the hour that I requested, but I would like to make sure folks know as much about the conference. I’ve gone three years in a row. This will be my fourth year at the Wellness Forum Health conference. From your perspective, knowing what you’re talking about and Peter Gøtzsche of Cochrane Collaboration and others and yourself. What can you say empathetically to listeners to get the right people to show up?
DR. BREGGIN: This is a two-pronged but interrelated conference. Its origins are in nutrition. I can tell you from personal experience at the age of 81, Pam Popper’s work is the first time I met my equivalent in nutrition, somebody who does a lot of science, somebody who does what’s right, somebody who’s been heavily attacked because of it, and somebody who has strength in God’s help maybe to stand up to the nutritional and medical establishment to speak out on what good nutrition is, not industrial nutrition that is being passed on by the agri-schools and the agricultural industries. So, you’ll get for the first time, I believe in your life, an introduction to really sound nutrition based on how we evolved as human beings over a long time as mammals for millions of years and based on modern science, and if you follow that program, any illness you have will probably improve because it tends to be an anti-inflammatory approach to eating and help you lose weight, and you would lose automatically if you just ate these foods. You don’t even have to worry about it because you won’t be eating a lot of fat and you won’t be eating much high protein, so you’ll learn to do that.
HOWARD: And I understand that you’re saying this from personal experience.
DR. BREGGIN: Oh, just profound personal experience. I went on the diet in part because I knew that it might be the only way to get my wife to go on it because she’d been so hurt by so-called nutritionists over the years for what is a decades long profound struggle with gastrointestinal disorders and shifting joint pains that go with gut disorders as well as other associated problems having to do with her immune system, just I mean, I almost lost her at one point from an immune attack on her heart. So, it really limited her activities up until May of this year, it’s not a very long ago, my friend. So, I came home with this diet April 1st after working with Pam on our course, and within two or three months, I lost 25 pounds. I literally no longer needed my blood pressure pills. In fact, I thought maybe this diet was making me weak because I’d faint, and I thought, wait a minute blood pressure, and I took my blood pressure, and it was too low on one small blood pressure pill I was taking. I talked to my internist about it and just threw away the blood pressure pill, and I now have the blood pressure of what I did when I was in my 30s. It’s not even borderline. For my age, borderline would be 150 over 100, and I’m nowhere near it any more. So, from my experience, I know it works.
So then Ginger, because she loves me, she was making me the right food, making sure we didn’t go out to eat a lot eating the wrong food, so she started eating it. Within two weeks, she knew she was getting better. I could cry. It was the most astonishing thing. Within a month, she was free of probably 35 years or more of severe disorders around the immune system particularly the gastrointestinal system but also the cardiovascular, thyroid, I mean she had real illnesses, diagnosable illnesses, all related to the immune system, and now, the biggest one, the one we quickly measure is the gastrointestinal, and she is healthy. She’s actually healthy right now. She has no serious illnesses right now. So, I mean, that made a believer out of me, and Ginger is not the person who responds to a placebo. She is not, you know, I have faith and it works. She’s a very hyper critical, you know, intensely evaluative person on a scientific basis. She sends me scientific articles to read. So, yes, come to the conference.
That’s the one half. The other half, which is more and more making integration within my mind, is drug-free therapy, and you’re going to hear from me. I’m going to give two presentations. Peter Gøtzsche. I don’t know if he’s doing one or two. But I’ve invited Peter, who is now in some ways replacing me as the prolific critic writer from the medical community about psychiatry and medicine. He’s much younger than me, which is really great. Another friend of mine Jeanne Stolzer is going to be talking about the importance of affiliation and relationship and human right. To sum up, probably the deepest connection human beings grew on a diet meant for them through their evolution and they grew on relationships meant for them through evolution, and this conference will give you a much better sense of the power of relationship and the power of nutrition rather than the power of drugs. There’s a good tie-in for you.
HOWARD: Hmmm. So, when human beings get the physical food and the emotional food they need, they grow up healthy.
DR. BREGGIN: Even a better way to end our conversation – good emotional food and good food they do the best they can do in life. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t physical conditions that might need or benefit from medication or surgery, but they are actually quite small in comparison to those that benefit from nutrition, believe it or not, where I thought was the reverse – nutrition would be the lesser contribution. No! It’s a major one.
HOWARD: Right. Before we go, I wanna make sure people know where to find you, that you tell us the books that you’ve written that you think are most relevant and useful for people right now, and Elan and I will say good bye and let you go.
DR. BREGGIN: Thank you. It was a great interview. Thank you, it was a great, great interview. You can find me at… I’m going to give you my website: Breggin.com. You can find tons of information there, a lot of free information including the regular update that I do every week or so. You can get my books there, but you might just well go to find the cheapest copy you can on, you know, the big website… Amazon.com. My newest book is Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal. It’s a handbook, a book to help you, your therapist, your psychologist… not likely your psychiatrist would like it, some might. Your therapist might. Your family physician who is medicating you, your pediatrician might like it, and it’s a book about why to stop the drugs. The first half is about the dangers I was just talking about, everything I was just talking about dangers and much more documented scientific papers. Many of those scientific papers are available on my website, and it tells you how to go about getting help, getting off psych drugs. Um, so it’s kind of an encompassing book.
You mentioned my book Guilt, Shame, and Anxiety. It gives you my best concepts of being a human being and how to overcome the emotional disabilities that we ALL struggle with and why we all struggle with them. It will explain through evolution why we all struggle with them and what next step we make beyond evolution to overcome them, and you may even find to your shock that Darwin was in total agreement with me about all this. I’ve got a section on Darwin at the end just to show you what real science says, not what you’re learning in college, and Darwin said from the beginning in his great book The Descent of Man that evolution was about love and human success was about our love and our working together and communicating, which he called “affiliation,” and that our success was based on things like the golden rule. He said it, and in his book, he mentions “love” – I don’t remember – dozens of times, and he mentions “survival of the fittest” three times, once to dismiss it. So, it’s not what you get from other places, and the establishment is all full of crap. It really is, so read Guilt, Shame, and Anxiety. And another book The Heart of Being Helpful. I’m so glad that it’s loved by you guys. One other that’s really changed others’ lives is Toxic Psychiatry. It’s an older book, but it is going to show you how in the 1990s I nailed everything that’s happening today… in 1991, and that’s the book that is the most commonly mentioned by professionals as changing their lives. So, thank you much for this great interview.
HOWARD: Thank you so much for taking the time. I have half a page of prompts for things that I didn’t get to ask you about, so I hope to be able to follow up at some point and continue the conversation. I know Elan would also like to say thanks and good-bye.
ELAN: Thank you so much.
DR. BREGGIN: Howard, you and Elan are exactly who I want to talk to. You have me back any time.
HOWARD: Thank you so much. I look forward to seeing you next month, November 10th to 12th in Columbus, Ohio at the Wellness Forum Health conference. All the links, everything we talked about will be in the show notes. Dr. Peter Breggin, what an honor and pleasure and just bathed in emotional joy to spend this time with you.
DR. BREGGIN: Thank you, and I feel the same way, and I think you and I, we’re going to do stuff together. We’re going to talk more at the conference, and we’re going to find ways to work together. I think so. Thank you.
HOWARD: Nothing will make me happier. Thank you so much. Have a great day!
DR. BREGGIN: Bye-bye all!
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