Drug-Induced Dementia – book review

9781438972312_cover.inddA book review by Delores Jankovich  (first published in ICSPP Bulletin 2009 – Number 3)

Drug-Induced Dementia: a perfect crime Grace E. Jackson, Bloomington, IN. AuthorHouse, 2009, 440 pp., $29.95.

Grace Jackson provides detailed substantiation of the chemical injury that is occurring in all ages of people from the use of prescription drugs. Indeed, this is a 21st century crime of unprecedented dimensions and one that is growing every day. The focus of this book is on psychiatric drugs as a cause of iatrogenic damage to the brain and the body. This is a book that must be read by all physicians, students and practitioners in the mental health professions as well as by the public. Dr. Jackson has painstakingly written this book in such a way that many consumers can understand the risks of developing dementia from psychiatric drugs even though parts of the book are very difficult to understand. Everyone who sees patients should place this book in their waiting room and discuss it in their practice. Drug Induced Dementia: A Perfect Crime should be a part of the curriculum of every medical school. We are in urgent need of identifying and addressing this tragedy locally and internationally.

The way I approach this information is “a spoonful at a time.” I’ll admit this is pretty hefty reading for my bed-side table. This is clearly writing that evokes painful feelings and a struggle to come to terms with “how we have arrived at such a juncture.” We are dealing with a crime of huge dimensions. Grace Jackson has faced this dilemma with courage and perseverance, bringing us a work of great scholarly magnitude. This accomplishment has required her to lead in uncharted territory and to identify the problem, describe the findings of damage and propose what we can do about it.

She is ingenious in the metaphor she has chosen to introduce us to the workings of the brain. Dr. Jackson uses the familiar American treat, the Tootsie Pop.: “Candy coating = cortex; tootsie roll center = subcortex; and lollipop stick = brainstem.” She further invites us to explore popular movies that depict murder mysteries showing the difficulty of identifying causation and responsibility when there are multiple murder suspects, some of which may be hidden— as is the case in injury or death due to treatment with psychiatric drugs.

Psychiatry has escaped the role of perpetrator of the perfect crime since, with current research and clinical practice, it is extremely difficult to identify the source of harm. Drugs are used to target diseases of specific organs. When someone dies from a common disease process such as heart disease, it is unlikely that the treating physician considers prescription drugs (from past or present treatment) as a possible cause. Often psychiatric patients are receiving more than one psychiatric drug. The effects upon the brain and the entire soma are not known, not recognized or denied. The cause of damage or death is thought to be an accident or due to the “underlying illness.”

There is no clear definition of dementia. Dr. Jackson states that dementia is a term that refers to cognitive symptoms that are serious enough to interrupt social, occupational and independent function. She shared that Dr. Perminder Sachdev has suggested that the term dementia no longer be used due to semantic ambiguity, clinical harm and stigma. However, not only is the term dementia still used, it has inspired new practices and new drugs, all of which are of questionable value.

The origin of dementia is primary (within the brain) or secondary (within the body – also called soma). Psychiatric drugs cause both primary and secondary injury. As Grace emphasizes, we must understand:

“Psychiatric drugs are a common but frequently unrecognized souce of primary and secondary dementias.”

The desire for power rather than truth, termed “performativity” by the late philosopher, Jean Francois-Lyotard, has led to a focus on symptoms and pathology rather than on causation. Identification, prevention and mitigation of dementia is not the concern of the medical profession. The medical profession, and all who collude with them, continue to support a structure of power and domination which leads to further diseasing of the brain and body. Dr. Jackson gives us the truth. To further quote Dr, Jackson:

“The chronic use of medication as promoted and often mandated in the United States today, results in adaptive changes in the brain which oppose the intended and immediate drug effects.”

To continue to drive home the adverse effects of care intended to help, note the following: “Drug-induced disruptions in brain processes have been demonstrated in the context of chronic treatment of all psychiatric drugs.”

When tracking the course of dementia in patients with a history of psychiatric treatment, the tragic fact is that many people do not live long enough to identify and track dementia as those receiving psychiatric drugs die 13 to 30 years earlier than those who do not take psychiatric drugs. Dr. Jackson mentioned that Emil Kraepelin coined the term dementia praecox during the 19th century to describe a syndrome we now call schizophrenia. This led people to believe that dementia was inherently present in psychotic experiences. Indeed, as recent as 2002 I was told by a young psychiatrist that “schizophrenia also known as dementia praecox means the presence of dementia and indicates there will be a persistent decline of functioning in the individual, regardless of treatment.” Thus the way “psychiatric illnesses” are conceptualized needs to be addressed.

Dr. Jackson clearly indicates that “lethality of neuroleptics cannot be overstated” and she calls for urgent attention to “drug-induced dementia, particularly, as it occurs prematurely and even among the very young.”

There is a very clear association between psychiatric drug use, dementia and mortality, regardless of the drug class. Detailed descriptions of investigative research into antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs), mood stabilizers and stimulants are included as separate chapters in this volume of work. This is a tremendous service for all practitioners, consumers, ex-consumers, survivors and family members of those who are suffering emotionally. The very large body of fine references further provides the links necessary for those who need and/or desire to pursue additional information.

The concluding sections of this book offer information on identifying the problem of damage from psychiatric drugs and how to respond to the problem both on a personal and/or systemic level. Dr. Jackson lists the variables that need to be considered by individuals and clinicians when drug therapy is being addressed. She discusses the faulty research designs utilized in evaluating drug efficacy and safety. The sobering fact is that drug regulatory agencies continue to ignore faulty research, thereby contributing to the injury and death of many individuals.

On a systemic level, many of Dr. Jackson’s recommendations call for the dismantling of Group Think practices and non-reimbursement for poor or essentially harmful medical care. She asks for protection for those physicians who practice critical thinking and excellence in care and for whistle blowers who call attention to medical care that is a part of accepted practice but is neglectful or harmful.

Dr. Jackson notes that the majority who are iatrogenically damaged took the drugs without informed consent and/or were coerced through the State to take harmful drugs. She gives proposals for compensation and rehabilitation of the iatrogenically injured.

Physicians must have the right to challenge Medical Consensus (Group Think) and to choose those practices that promote health and safety for their patients. The following quotes say it all in terms of the respect for human life that need to be put in place:

“On a systemic scale, the best thing that could happen in any democratic society would be the eradication of unwarranted, coercive therapies. Only within psychiatry is the fundamental right of patient autonomy, and the fundamental duty of physician non-maleficence, routinely trampled. Preferably, law schools and medical schools would prioritize the creation of an entire network of professionals (such as Jim Gottstein, Esq., and the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights) who would be dedicated to the task of preventing psychiatric assault.”

This book should lead people to question whether they should ever consider taking psychiatric drugs. Even when people are not forced but are suffering and drugs are recommended to them, they are usually unaware of the “gentle coercion” present when drugs are presented as best practice. Perhaps the question needs to be, “Why would anyone be encouraged to take drugs that we now know are ultimately damaging?” Is it not a moral consideration that when one person is harmed, so are others, in particular those who love them and may have to shoulder the burden of caring for someone who is chemically injured? Also. deprived if not harmed, are those that have been or would be the recipients of ths person’s creativity and resourcefulness.

Dr. Jackson ‘s book is dedicated to Jim Gottstein, Esq. of Alaska and his astounding work in defending the legal rights of those diagnosed with a mental illness. She is also inspired by the excellence of drug-free care and education being provided by Dr. Toby Watson in his home town of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Dr. Jackson’s goal is to open a Clinic for the Chemically Injured in her home area of North Carolina and she will also be seeking neurologists of conscience to join with her in this endeavor. She believes that it is time for all of us in ICSPP to move forward in our own way and commit to this worthy cause of addressing chemical injury due to psychiatric drugs..

In reading Dr. Jackson’s work I am reminded of a quote by George Orwell, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

Thank you, Grace Jackson, for a book presenting the truth about psychiatric drugs in unprecedented form and scholarship.

For Grace Jackson’s own review of the book, also on this blog see here.

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