Forced “Treatment” is Torture

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Forced

By Peter Breggin, MD
Featured Blogs June 19, 2016

Torture often has a straightforward goal—to break the victim’s will and to intimidate others who fear that torture will also be inflicted on them. Anyone who has worked or been a patient on a psychiatric ward has witnessed daily attempts to break the will of patients by limiting their freedom and activities, treating them like children, making threats, using physical restraint and isolation, and ultimately inflicting drugs and electroshocks that render the individual helpless. The most profound impact of neuroleptic (antipsychotic) drugs is to render the individual indifferent, apathetic and docile; but the drugs commonly continue to inflict physical and mental torment.

In my decades of clinical experience, many if not most victims of involuntary treatment experience it as torture. They know it aims at breaking their will and they physically and mentally resist, resulting in even more dire consequences. Involuntary treatment humiliates and demoralizes people, reinforcing their feelings of being worthless, powerless, and helpless. It leads to outrage, which is then crushed by psychiatric drugs. The neuroleptic drugs cause a confusing combination of emotional numbing and apathy along with feelings of acute physical discomfort and agonizing akathisia and agitation; but they inevitably produce docility with a chemically lobotomizing disruption of the brain.

I have opposed involuntary treatment for my entire career and first began criticizing it in the medical literature in 1964. As Thomas Szasz originally taught, involuntary psychiatric treatment is unconstitutional and an assault on basic human rights. I am also against it on scientific grounds, because after hundreds of years, this violation of human rights has generated no scientific studies to show that it benefits its victims.

I am encouraged by the excellent blog by Peter C. Gøtzsche on MadinAmerica.com, which inspired me to put a new section, Psychiatric Coercion and Involuntary Treatment, on my website, and to compose these further observations of my own.

Since finishing my training, I have never treated or incarcerated anyone against his or her will. During this period in private practice extending back to 1968, no patients in treatment with me have committed suicide or a perpetrated a serious act of violence. Any good psychiatrist or therapist could have a patient commit suicide or perpetrate violence; but coercion, drug treatment, and hospitalization increases the likelihood. I believe that my refusal to coerce patients, my efforts to prevent hospitalization, and my practice of not starting patients on psychiatric drugs have contributed to the good fortune that my patients have not committed suicide or extreme violence. People in deep distress do not need incarceration or the inevitable drugs that follow; they need caring help from friends, family, and professionals.

Someone in an out-of-control manic episode or someone threatening to do harm in a psychotic episode presents difficult problems to civil libertarians and to those of us who wish to help people in distress while protecting others from them. There are no easy solutions, especially when some of these people reject all offers of voluntary help. However, there are many reasons not to use these examples as a justification for laws that allow involuntary treatment—locking up people on the say-so of judges and healthcare professionals. In addition to the human rights and Constitutional reasons, here are some further reasons to do away with involuntary treatment:

First, very few people labelled “mentally ill” actually become violent. Rates of criminal violence in this group do not exceed the general population. Those who do become violent are usually reacting against the oppressive, antagonizing conditions on hospital wards. As described in my book Medication Madness, when patients do commit extreme violence, it is usually the result of psychiatric drug-induced brain dysfunction and/or drug withdrawal. Psychiatric drugs frequently cause irritability, hostility, aggression, disinhibition and mania, leading to violence, especially when starting or during drug dose changes.

Second, there is no evidence that psychiatrists, judges, or others empowered to commit or certify people have any reliable knowledge or skill for determining who is acutely dangerous and who is not, and when they have recovered.

Third, there is no scientific evidence that psychiatrically incarcerating people reduces their violent tendencies or protects the public from them. In my clinical experience and study of violent perpetrators, involuntary incarceration increases the likelihood of future violence by adding the humiliation and abuse of forced treatment to the individual’s list of reasons to feel humiliated, outraged and retaliatory. In addition, they become exposed to psychiatric drugs, many of which can cause or worsen violence. [Moore et al., 2010]

Fourth, fear of involuntary treatment hangs over the head of everyone labelled a mental patient. Going to a psychiatrist, or to other healthcare providers, exposes the already distressed individual to the risk of incarceration and forced treatment with little or no due process. When feeling helpless and overwhelmed, seeking psychiatric treatment can turn into the most dangerous mistake of a person’s life. People often avoid seeking help for fear of being locked up and/or forced to take drugs, when voluntary psychotherapeutic interventions can be lifesaving.

Fifth, psychiatry’s capacity to force treatment upon its most challenging patients means that psychiatrists have little motivation to develop genuinely helpful treatments. Psychiatrists can and do get away with compulsively repeating the same old oppressive approaches—hospitalization, mind-numbing drugs, and ECT—without any evidence for their effectiveness. Why explore better approaches, when they can simply lock up people, while making believe they are doing the best that they can do? Involuntary treatment becomes the easy way, without the necessity of psychotherapeutic interventions that require thoughtfulness, empathy, hard work, and devotion.

We know that there are excellent treatment interventions for even the most distressed people, acutely disturbed people having breakdowns diagnosed as schizophrenia. Robert Whitaker, Loren Mosher, as well as myself and many others, have described them. Yet these approaches remain outside the psychiatric establishment because it is so easy to lock up people who “do not respond to treatment.”

Sixth, even if involuntary treatment could prevent a few instances of violence, the cost is too high. The use of psychiatric coercion for centuries has led to the wretched incarceration and horrendous abuse of millions of people throughout the world. All the most violent treatments, such as neuroleptic drugs, electroshock and lobotomy, grew out of unethical, unprincipled mass experimentation on involuntary inmates. Many of the worst abuses I continue to witness as a medical expert have been perpetrated upon helpless, incarcerated patients.

Today in America, while long-term psychiatric incarcerations have gone down, civil commitment of people in the community is escalating. Imagine someone forcing you to take long-acting injections of neuroleptic drugs like Risperdal and Zyprexa while living at home? Imagine refusing to go the clinic for your shots, so that the police or other agents of the state come knocking down your door?

Undergoing forcibly injected psychiatric drugs is worse than drug-free imprisonment in jail where at least your mind and spirit are free. The neuroleptic drugs crush the mind and spirit, in the extreme producing a zombie–like existence. Your will can be so broken by the drugs that you cannot find the strength or motivation to resist, or to run away and hide from the authorities.

There is a reason for the complex, cumbersome protections of the criminal justice system. People in authority, such as judges, prosecuting attorneys, psychiatrists and police officers need the restraint of Constitutional protections, especially the Bill of Rights. Civil commitment bypasses these protections, resulting in devastating outcomes for the individual and society. As cumbersome as the criminal justice system can be, we are better off as a society if we rely upon it, rather than coercive psychiatry, to protect us from violence. If an individual cannot forcibly be detained under existing criminal laws, then we must tolerate their freedom, if only to protect our own. If they are jailed, they must still have the right to refuse psychiatric treatment that imposes shackles on the brain, mind and spirit.

The call to abolish involuntary treatment has become more controversial and threatening since the mass shootings perpetrated by individuals who at times seem emotionally disturbed, including some who are ideologically and religiously motivated. As I discuss in my book Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide, and Crime, organized psychiatry and involuntary treatment has not protected society from them. Nearly all of the non-Jihadists have been through the mental health system, which has failed to respond to their threats of violence. Many have received psychiatric drugs that have worsened or even caused their violence. On the other hand, the psychiatrist system will never get hold of most Jihadists, and if and when it does, it will provide us no protection, while continuing to trample on individual rights.

Practical experience demonstrates that involuntary treatment does not protect society while it abuses many innocent people. Many of the mass murderers, especially Jihadists, could have been deterred by the current criminal justice system if they had been investigated and prosecuted more rigorously.

Abolishing involuntary treatment is easily justified under the Bill of Rights, including sections that pertain to due process, protection from cruel and unusual punishments, and the protection of freedom of speech. Involuntary treatment has no place in a society that values the rights of the individual. Nor is it “humane” or “kind” to lock up and drug people against their will. If these people thought psychiatric treatment was humane and kind, they would have chosen it. To superimpose upon them the will of professionals devoted to psychiatric theories and practices that do more harm than good is neither human nor kind; it is simply oppressive.

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Peter Breggin, MD

The Breggin Blog: The Conscience of Psychiatry: Dr. Breggin has been called "The Conscience of Psychiatry" for his decades of successful efforts to reform the field. He criticizes psychiatric drugs and ECT, and promotes more caring, empathic and effective therapies. His newest book is Guilt, Shame and Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming Negative Emotions.
 
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I think the worst part is knowing they have seen parts of your body they should not have seen when they inject you. Having your skirt lifted and knickers pulled down is not nice.
 
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ShanYin37

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I think I should be studying CTO's and the mental health act and laws in Canada so that I will understand it better.
 
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The title of this thread is so true.

But when will they listen?

What might be good is for seriously ill people who are a risk of hurting themselves or others, is if they don't want medication, for them to say, ok, fine...and will will support you in a person centred way.

How would you like us to support you?

What would you like to do?

What would you like?

If they want to go home then fine. They can always take them home, make sure they are safe, take away knees if necessary and come back the next day to check on them. Or something like that.


The only reason they don't treat people with this sort of respect is because it costs more money. It is easier for me to say, just stay in hospital and take these sedating medications. Stay in your bed. Do some art. Watch tv. Have a shower. Go back to bed.
 
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I absolutely agree that forced treatment especially with the use of needles is torture however I have read that torture is essentially legal and can only be thought of as illegal if it is deemed to cause psychological harm. That would be a Catch 22 situation. But it would mean that the torture of psychiatry doesn't make things better and may end psychiatry not soon enough though. I said to someone did they think people believe in equal opportunities - and he said yes - which means the world - apart from me - want to be sectioned including the mental health staff.

The evidence is that the way mental health staff and there supporters behave then they will end up in detention centres for the criminally insane.

For instance if I refuse to turn up for an appointment which I am coerced into then they will find me but only by stalking. Someone goes missing and they aren't found for God knows how long but someone misses a coerced psychiatric appointment and that's it within five minutes they are found. Stalking - that is what it is and slavery according to the news who so support the regime and are not impartial in the least.
 
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there before commmunity treatment orders were a group of people who'd refuse treatment live a life of havoc making neighbours lives a misery before been sectioned then on leaving hospital, having had large anounts spent on them, they'd be housed somewhere else for the process to repeat

What do you suggest is done?
 
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sillybilly41

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You could always have them shot for daring to question psychiatry. Knowing your own mind is a dangerous thing in itself.

I'm giving up.aripiprazole by choice so I can be first against the wall if you like. Otherwise I will cause havoc in the community and probably end up committing mass murder.

Also it would save the NHS money if we were euthanized. It's not like we're human anyway.
 
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i think if the shit hits the fan it's a bit unfair on the neighbours and those around you, who'll have your presumed mental illness pushed to understand why they can't get any sleep at night etc

but what do i know i'm just a poor ill lunatic albeit one whose had to deal with problem neighbours
 
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sillybilly41

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Well maybe I'll make it easy for them and drink myself to death. I've never been loud or violent in my life, and I think you are being prejudiced. You don't even know me and you presume because I'm diagnosed with schizophrenia and stopping my medication that I'll be a nuisance to others. Would you rather I was locked up.'just in case' while someone that really needs the help is ignored?
 
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Well maybe I'll make it easy for them and drink myself to death. I've never been loud or violent in my life, and I think you are being prejudiced. You don't even know me and you presume because I'm diagnosed with schizophrenia and stopping my medication that I'll be a nuisance to others. Would you rather I was locked up.'just in case' while someone that really needs the help is ignored?
i didn't know you had a schitzoprenia diagnosisis until i read another thread later, but i do from seeing friends know it's hard to come off meds for schitzoprenia and the attempt quite often causes problems for those around them
 
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...i do from seeing friends know it's hard to come off meds for schitzoprenia and the attempt quite often causes problems for those around them
In the absence of appropriate/comprehensive psychological/social support, i tend to agree.

There is the possibility of getting med free in cases, but it ideally needs proper support in my view.

That's the endless catch 22/double bind that i feel i have been in. There isn't access to appropriate/comprehensive alternatives in this society/with this system. i can't even access basic appropriate psychological help.

Last 3 experiences of stopping medication were horrendous.
 
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In the absence of appropriate/comprehensive psychological/social support, i tend to agree. https://www.mentalhealthforum.net/forum/newreply.php?do=newreply&p=1394755

There is the possibility of getting med free in cases, but it ideally needs proper support in my view.

That's the endless catch 22/double bind that i feel i have been in. There isn't access to appropriate/comprehensive alternatives in this society/with this system. i can't even access basic appropriate psychological help.

Last 3 experiences of stopping medication were horrendous.
my girlfriend came off meds i sometimes wonder if it was because she felt protected, anyway i couldn't protect her and ended up calling the mental health team

saw her psychiatrist said i'm moving she said your leaving p felt sad, she's seen it before

'my girlfriend said i'd dome the right thing calling them, i said you don't know what that means to me i've been feeling so guilty. i'm not sure i've done the right thing, whether she's happy i doubt
 
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my girlfriend came off meds i sometimes wonder if it was because she felt protected, anyway i couldn't protect her and ended up calling the mental health team

saw her psychiatrist said i'm moving she said your leaving p felt sad, she's seen it before

'my girlfriend said i'd dome the right thing calling them, i said you don't know what that means to me i've been feeling so guilty. i'm not sure i've done the right thing, whether she's happy i doubt
i think we're both right. We don't live in an ideal society/world, & with things as they are, they realities are what they are. A more ideal society/system & i think it could all be very different for more people. i can't change it all.

The general reality with mental health i think is largely abysmal. The treatment is terrible imo, it's a horror story, but then this society/civilisation is a horror story in my view.
 
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Well thanks for the vote of confidence. I'm sure I will be fine and I'm probably not even going to tell mental health services I'm coming off the medication. I only see them once again. I know I won't harm anybody else or disturb the neighbours, I think I know myself well enough for that. With all due respect you are being presumptive.
 
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Well thanks for the vote of confidence. I'm sure I will be fine and I'm probably not even going to tell mental health services I'm coming off the medication. I only see them once again. I know I won't harm anybody else or disturb the neighbours, I think I know myself well enough for that. With all due respect you are being presumptive.
You may be fine & i hope that you are. Is the underlying condition more resolved? If you go into the same (or worse) state of mind that you were in before when you stopped the medication, then how are you going to deal with it all without recourse to mental health services? From myself it's more of a concern for your wellbeing & safety. i can't properly describe the severity of the episode after the last time i stopped the medication. i'd far rather take the pills the rest of life than go through anything like that again.
 
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sillybilly41

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I have a back log of meds and I am going to try healthier alternatives. Anything is preferable to hospital. But even when I was ill I wasn't violent or annoying the neighbours.
 
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I have a back log of meds and I am going to try healthier alternatives. Anything is preferable to hospital. But even when I was ill I wasn't violent or annoying the neighbours.
i caused zero trouble to anyone during the last 3 major psychotic episodes, other than causing a lot of concern, especially to family for my well being/safety. i don't think the main problem would be your behaviour, it's the potential to go into severe psychosis, & how that can be dealt with/managed, & your ability to function through it all. & if it all resolves, in cases it doesn't. It's your vulnerability that i think would be the primary concern.

i've tried everything that i've been able to, especially over the past 15 years. Nutrition, healers, sobriety, all sorts.

We need proper help/support with it all imo.

i'm Not trying to put you off, am just very aware of what it has been like for me in the past with it all. Despite all my criticism of the system, & wanting things to be far better, especially with far more proper psychological/social support, i am also very aware of the realities of being in florid psychosis - there were 7 major episodes, over 14 years, 8 years of which were unmedicated. It was a hell of a journey. In cases, even if there was an ideal system, i'd still see a place for a wise use of medication. Debates about mental health aside, we do have serious difficulties in one way & another, & if the medication helps then so what. Some people resolve it, i have noted, with careful study, that in my observation a lot of the people that are successful, their history hasn't been as severe, & they usually get a lot of support.

It's your life to do as you wish, just saying to carefully consider it all. There are also a lot of complexities to the medication issue. A certain percentage of people will go into severe withdrawal psychosis whatever they try/do, regardless, as a direct result of the effect of the drug withdrawal. i don't see what anyone can do about that? There is evidence in the literature that it can be a permanent psychosis. Once on these drugs for some people it's impossible to get off them. i'm Not saying that to be negative, just to be aware of the realities of it all. It is a potentially very dangerous area.

In a more ideal world there would be comprehensive alternatives from day one & these drugs used to a very bare minimum, ideally short term, as a last resort, & people would have proper understanding, help & support. But that isn't the current reality/case, & it won't change in our lifetimes.
 
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"The chemical action of various dosages is different; & 'increased/decreased' dose isn't simply a case of 'increased/decreased' effect - the chemical actions of these drugs can be very very different at different levels - & 'more' is certainly not always 'better' or more effective. In fact - these class of drugs can be far more effective at minimum dose.

Psychiatric Drugs - especially the neuroleptics cause significant brain chemistry & structural changes; (in use & withdrawal) - & these effects can vary greatly with many variables & factors - all people are individual; & drug effects change with individual physiology & psychology - with each individuals unique personal & environmental make up.

There really isn't any science here - it's Alchemy more than anything. No one really knows exactly what is going on with it all. Some people may be helped more than others - but there are no guarantees.

I do feel that there are many many ways of approaching severely altered/non-ordinary states; & medication is but one tool of many. It's a shame that medication is about the only approach that's on offer in the UK. I think that this is a sad & very unsatisfactory state of affairs - But this is the way things are."

About the best article that I've read on the use of psychiatric drugs is this -

From the book 'One in a Hundred' by Aiden Shingler -

"Neuroleptic drugs [also known as anti-psychotics or major-tranquillisers] are powerful & complex substances. There is a vast amount yet to be understood about the intricate interplay & specific interactions of these drugs on the neurological system. I feel, however, that they can fulfil a valuable role in assisting individuals in their quest for balance, but only if there is a balance of interests between those prescribing & those receiving.

It is lamentable that the means & methods by which these drugs are systematically imposed by clinicians gives rise to a profound conflict of interests.

Neuroleptics have the capacity to act upon the human psyche via the realm of alchemy rather than pharmacy.

My understanding is that schizophrenia is a psychic experience that manifests itself as spiritual conflict. The openness & susceptibility to the effects of paranormal stimuli by those undergoing Psyche-sensitivity can be overwhelming: a dam burst causing a flash flood of psychic activity that fills the planes of the mind.

If neuroleptics are administered sensitively, then rather than suffocating psychic activity through chemical saturation, these compounds can function as a filter, & posses the potential to limit the frequency & intensity of paranormal occurrences by reducing the psychic aperture, thus enabling psychic activity to be channelled & assimilated. Used minimally, these drugs can improve the life of the individual rather than impoverish it. All too often major tranquillisers are administered as an overdose that nullifies the neurological system rendering the recipient brain-dead.

The expression less is more springs to mind. Anti-psychic drugs need not be a bitter pill to swallow."